Nutrition of the Low-Birth-Weight Infant

Editor(s): F. Haschke Annales Nestlé Vol.69 / 1,  2011


Preterm birth has to be acknowledged as a nutritional emergency. When nutrition is adequate severe short and long-term consequences can be prevented. However, in practice adequate nutrient provision is rarely achieved. Proper and frequent monitoring as well as further research is required to increase our understanding of the nutrtitional requirements in this vulnerable population. The nutritional challenges do not end when the preterm infant leaves the hospital. This issue of the Annales indicates ways to achieve adequate nutrition of the LBW and VLBW infant during hospital stay and after discharge. Finally the clinical evidence of some common types of supplements are thoroughly reviewed.

  • Meeting the Nutritional Needs of the Low-Birth-Weight Infant

    Author(s): E. Ziegler

    Delivering adequate amounts of nutrients to premature infants at all times is challenging because the infant’s immature gastrointestinal tract is initially unable to accept feedings, necessitating the use of parenteral nutrition. In the past, inadequate amounts of nutrients have commonly been given to premature infants because the administration of nutrients was thought to be hazardous. Inadequate nutrient intakes have resulted in widespread postnatal growth restriction.

    Now that it is known that postnatal growth restriction is associated with poor neurocognitive development, efforts are made to increase nutrient intakes. In this review, nutrient requirements of premature infants that have been determined by the factorial and empirical methods are reviewed.

    Current good practices regarding parenteral nutrition are discussed, as are guidelines for the introduction and advancement of enteral feedings. Because of its trophic effects on the gastrointestinal tract and its anti-infectious effects, human milk is strongly preferred as the early feeding of choice for premature infants. Human milk also protects infants against necrotizing enterocolitis. Once full feeding is achieved, the challenge is to provide nutrients in amounts that support the infant’s growth like that of the fetus. In the case of the infant fed his/her mother’s milk or banked donor milk, nutrient fortification is necessary and is generally practiced.

    However, adequate intakes of protein are seldom achieved with routine fortification and methods of providing additional fortification are discussed.

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